occupy oakland hasn’t had a centralized location since the police raided the camp in oscar grant plaza, destroying a library, a free clinic and other resources. the plan for january 28th – occupy oakland move-in day – was to move into an abandoned building and turn it into a social center and a new home for all the resources that had been displaced by the attack on the camp. my friend alex got ahold of me two weeks ago – what does any social center need, he realized? an arcade. he and his friend mars would build it, and i would design the game for it.
slut and i gave them an empty wooden cabinet we’ve had for over a year now. while he and mars converted it to a wheeled, battery-powered arcade machine that could travel the streets of oakland – the OAK-U-TRON 201X – i set to work creating a game that would run on it. i’ve made plenty of games about police brutality already. this game would be seen and played by tons of people united in a common struggle: i’d been doing some noodling over games where each play affects the next since playing risk: legacy, and i wanted to make a game in which every player contributed somehow to the collective success of every player. i didn’t have a lot of time, and i chose a super-simple concept inspired by a klik of the month game i can’t remember the name of: two players standing on switches to hold open gates for each other.
the two players are working together to get as high as they can in sixty seconds. when the sixty seconds are up, each player leaves her avatar behind to stand on the last switch she touched, holding it open for everyone who plays the game afterward. (every player gets a different color so she can recognize her avatar later.) as more and more gates are permanently opened, it’s easier for players to get farther in the sixty second time limit. what was important to me was that even less-skilled players could contribute – they might only make it as far as an early set of switches, but because more successful players hadn’t occupied those switches yet, these players could hold them down and save all future players the time they would have otherwise spent on them. i also liked players having the choice of making voluntary sacrifices to help future players, so i included shortcuts that allowed players to bypass big portions of the game, but required a player to opt out of advancing upwards in favor of occupying the switch.
over forty people played the game at oscar grant plaza and during the march to the building, contributing to the shared effort. soon after the march began, the police swooped down with a violence and aggression that was horrific even by the oakland police department’s standards, attacking the marchers with flashbangs, teargas and batons, and preventing them from occupying any of the buildings folks had intended to move into. alex and mars pushed the heavy cabinet through all this – other marchers joined in and helped when the march reached the laney college campus and the terrain got more difficult. as people headed back to the plaza to prepare for a second march, the OAK-U-TRON was put onto the occupy sound truck and taken safely to storage. the police used kettling tactics – trap people behind a wall of cops so that they can’t escape, then tell them they’re violating the law by refusing to disperse – arresting almost four hundred people on the streets of their own city.
i wasn’t at the march. we’d gotten wind of how crazy violent the police were, and between my fear as a transgendered woman of being incarcerated in a men’s jail and my partner’s experience with police violence, we opted to avoid police confrontation, but we kept in contact with many of our friends who were at the march, three of whom were ultimately arrested. my ex-girlfriend, who had been at the march but had had a panic attack out of fear and left, messaged me and we talked about our shared guilt over not being able to stand alongside our friends. a long time ago a friend told me, “the person who staples the pamphlets is as important to the revolution as the ones who carry the banners” – that’s a paraphrase, and if it’s a famous quote i don’t know the source. everyone contributes to the movement’s collective success, and it was reassuring to know that i had contributed a game that over forty people experienced.
you can download the game here, along with the source file. (i made it in game maker.) there’s a windows and mac version, thanks to leon. it’s not really play-at-home material – climbing the tower requires collective effort by many people over a long time. but you’re welcome to run the game at your own events, and to modify the game to better suit them. the only thing oakland-specific is the background: photos of local marches, occupy oakland events, and black panther assemblies, to remind contemporary oakland activists they’re part of a larger history of standing up to authority.